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What I had for breakfast today

Posted on September 30th, 2010 by Jeff Thiboutot M.S.

6-7 ounces ground beef, NOT the extra lean type, with 12 ounces of veggie blend (broccoli, cauliflower and corn) sauteed with 2 tablespoons of butter, a few tablespoons of salsa and 2 tablespoons of ground flax meal. Took about 10 minutes to make the entire dish.

Yogurt: In or Out on a weight loss plan?

Posted on September 30th, 2010 by Matt Schoeneberger

I got this question in an email recently:

Question. If I’m trying to cut down on sugars and carbs while still watching Calories, how bad is yogurt? I like my little yogurts, but just one carton has 27g of sugar (ouch). What should I do?

Here’s my response:

Well, it’s all about the big picture. If you have calorie and carb numbers you’re trying to hit, can you make yogurt fit into those numbers with whatever else you’re eating? If so, cool. If not, either adjust something else to save the yogurts, or adjust the yogurts.

If you don’t have calorie and carb numbers, go for a few weeks eating the yogurts and see what happens. If you don’t see the results you’re expecting, you know that yogurts will be one of the first things on the list to get axed. This method requires much more patience, because it might take 2 or 3 weeks to figure out if they’ll work or not.

Really, any food can work into a plan. I could choose to eat 4 pieces of pizza every day and plan the rest of my day around that. It would suck, because I wouldn’t get to eat anything or much at all for the rest of the day, so I have to figure out whether or not those 4 pieces of pizza are worth it. Maybe I should do 3 pieces of pizza and then I can have some string cheese and some ham.

One thing about yogurt is that it’s a dairy product, so there will be sugar (lactose) no matter what. But, some yogurts have added sugar in the ingredients list. If you find it hard to add yogurt into your day, maybe you could find a different yogurt that has different ingredients that would fit.

If yogurt is your thing, I recommend eating plain yogurt and adding your own fruit, preferably berries. Most people find out they don’t really like yogurt when they eat the real thing.

I hope this helps if you’re trying to crack the yogurt conundrum!

Also, remember we offer 1 month unlimited email coaching when you purchase our book.

Another Thumbs-up Review of "SPEED – the only weight loss book worth reading!"

Posted on September 29th, 2010 by Matt Schoeneberger

SPEED was reviewed by Tracy Rose at Suite101. She liked it!

Could you do us a huge favor? Head on over to her review and click the little “like” button at the top of the page. We’d really appreciate it. Oh, and you can read the review too, if you’d like.

Why Chad Waterbury is Wrong and I’m right (as always). – Part 1

Posted on September 28th, 2010 by Matt Schoeneberger

Chad Waterbury is becoming a big name in the fitness and performance business. He’s written for, Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness, as well as authoring a few books. I own one of them, Muscle Revolution. I’ve been following Chad since his beginning days at and I’ve always enjoyed his fresh ideas on working out.

On his website, Waterbury sets aside a page for fat loss research. Naturally, it was the first place I clicked.

Also naturally, I was let-down by there only being three studies listed, although he achieved slight redemption with a picture of one of my favorite UFC fighters, GSP – a rare class act.

“Now, hold on Matt. Maybe they’re three really good studies. Maybe they’re studies not rife with errors like many that you read. Maybe they’re reviews or meta-analyses – papers which draw conclusions from a culmination of other studies.”

I’ll admit the positive attitude I struggle to maintain may have slipped for a second and I had to talk myself back into positivity. I had to investigate before I became disappointed. I had to give Chad Waterbury a chance.

In this post, we’ll look at the first article he references:

Mazetti S, Douglass M, Yocum A, Harber M. Effect of Explosive versus Slow Contractions and Exercise Intensity on Energy Expenditure. Med Sci Sport Ex. 2007:29;1291-1301.

This group of researchers studies the effects of different intensity and repetition speeds of the squat exercise on energy expenditure both during and after exercise.

Waterbury’s conclusion:
“Training slowly will make you slow, and research indicates that it might also keep you from losing more fat. When the squat speed between two groups were compared, the group that lifted faster burned more calories during and after the workout. So lift fast to burn fat fast! (Mazzetti et al Med Sci Sports Exerc 2007)”

In fact, the explosive training group did show higher energy expenditures at all points measured after baseline. However, at its widest margin, the explosive group burned about 1.2 more calories per minute than the slow training group. After the entire protocol (20 minutes of sitting + squat exercise + 60 minutes of sitting), the explosive training group burned about 223 calories, while the heavy, slow and control (nothing but sitting) groups burned about 210, 214 and 135 calories, respectively.

This is hardly impressive, although I have to point out that the actual exercise time is very short (about 8 minutes). It was during the second half of the exercise session where 1.2 more calories per minute were expended by the explosive group over the slow group. So let’s pretend this lasted for 60 minutes instead of 8. If you used the explosive technique, you’d burn a whopping 72 more calories than with the slow technique.


72 calories!

Well, now you can enjoy yourself a Dannon Light ‘n Fit! (that’s sarcasm, by the way)

At this rate, you’ll only have to exercise for 48 hours to reap the fat loss benefits of explosive training over your slow training counterparts. And by reap the benefits I mean burn an extra 3500 calories, thought to be equal to one pound of fat.



The extra calorie burn the explosive training group experienced is negligible in the real world. It’s more efficient to adhere to a strict dietary program.

Chad Waterbury is correct. Training slow makes you slow and training fast makes you fast. But, for fat burning purposes, when you weigh the slight benefit of increased energy expenditure against the potential injury threat of training fast, especially when unsupervised, it becomes a no-brainer. Exercise at a pace that is comfortable and safe for you and concentrate on nutrition.

What I had for dinner last night

Posted on September 27th, 2010 by Jeff Thiboutot M.S.

Dinner tonight was a mixture of 5 ounces shrimp, 1 bag (12 ounces) of “Chinese” veggies (sliced green beans, mushrooms, & broccoli), 1/2 cup rice, and about 3 tablespoons of organic butter. All of it sauteed together, Yummy!

shrimp, veggies and butter

Why are the guys from so negative?

Posted on September 24th, 2010 by Matt Schoeneberger

Jeff and I spend a lot of time telling you what doesn’t work. We review a lot of exercise products, dietary supplements, weight loss plans, websites and anything else weight loss oriented. Frankly, we don’t like a lot of what we review. We get feedback sometimes that says we’re too negative, that we make fun of too many things.

Believe it or not, Jeff and I are very open-minded. We’re open to any product as long as there is proof – real proof – that the product really is effective. The reason we tell you about all the products we don’t like is so you don’t waste your money, time and effort on things that won’t take you toward your goals. You see, Jeff and I assume that if you’re following our blog, that’s what you’re after, achieving goals and getting results. Some products out there will never get you to your results no matter how diligently you use them, but they will make you feel like you’re doing something as long as you BELIEVE it’s working. We’re not interested in that.

Weight loss is pretty simple. It’s hard to do, but simple. There really aren’t any pills, potions, gadgets or lotions that make it any easier. You’re going to have to suck it up and work hard toward your weight loss goals. The techniques we discuss in SPEED all have a ton of proof behind them – real proof – so we know that each item we discuss is going to help you get to your goals. Here on the blog, however, we like to have a little fun and point out the ridiculousness that occurs when dishonest people are out to make a buck and a large group of gullible people are looking for an easy way out.

So, forgive us if we seem a bit negative. We promise that we always have your best interests in mind.

Did you get your dose of Zoochemicals today?

Posted on September 21st, 2010 by Jeff Thiboutot M.S.

It is likely that you have heard of the term “phytonutrients” or “phytochemicals”; the multitude of chemicals found in plants that have health promoting abilities. However, I bet you have not heard of the term zoochemicals. This is not some group of chemicals that gets zoo animals to do tricks on command. Rather, the term zoochemcials is a general term for the many chemicals found in animal products that can have health promoting properties. (1) As you will see, it is regrettable that this term is not as commonly used as phytochemicals because there are a number of chemicals found in animal foods that have similar or maybe even greater potential for health benefits than do phytochemcials.

Before highlighting the zoochemicals, I will offer my two cents about why there is a lack of awareness or appreciation of zoochemcials. I think the current view or awareness is largely due to the ubiquitous myth that animal foods need to be consumed with great caution, particularly those that have higher fat amounts. Animal foods can be eaten, but there are often many caveats connected to the recommendation. The warnings usually have to do with the fat and cholesterol content of the food and the general view that eating higher amounts of animal products will cause many diseases, particularly heart disease and cancer. For example, the book The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by two popular naturopathic doctors, Michael Murray and Joseph Pizzorno, have these types of warnings scattered throughout the book. For instance, they state “We suggest you limit your intake of red meat (beef, veal, or lamb) to no more two servings per month and choose the leanest cuts possible” (p.14) “Milk and cheese are often loaded with fat and cholesterol, which at elevated levels lead to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer” (p.569) and finally “While moderate consumption of meat and animal products may be health promoting, there is no question that overconsumption of these foods is spurring a global epidemic of lifestyle diseases, such as heart attack, strokes, and cancers…”(p.596).(2) Regrettably, in general, these types of statements are ever-present in the nutrition field. This is regrettable because the evidence for such caution is weak and, in fact, eating animal products is actually more likely to contribute to a more positive health effect than a negative one. (3,4,5,6,7,8) This will be considered heresy by many, but I really think that the evidence is clear on this topic. This does not mean that everyone needs to eat high amounts of animal products to be healthy. However, it is clear that humans, healthy ones, have subsisted on widely varying diets. But, there is not a single human culture/tribe etc. that purposefully avoided eating animal products and the general consensus is that animal products were hunted and eaten whenever possible. Additionally, there are a number of cultures that have been meticulously studied that eat close to a completely carnivorous diet (no plant products) and have been exceptionally healthy and typically lived a long life if they made it past infancy or avoided some type of infectious disease.(3,8)

I want to point out that there are legitimate ethical, moral and environmental concerns associated with many aspects of the typical animal production (factory farms) in the US and other countries. However, these concerns, in no way, take away from the fact that the human body should be eating animal products. The anatomical, evolutionary, cultural, and clinical evidence is clear that humans thrive when animal products are available. (3,4,5,7,8) Related to this aspect is the quality of animal products, i.e. grain-fed vs grass-fed, hormone use and so on. Yes there is a difference, but the difference is not usually huge. But, overall, it is best that the animal products that you ingest are high quality. That is all that will be said on this for now, as these subjects need their own post/discussion in order to clearly elaborate on the many points related to them.

The following are the nutrients/chemicals that are found only in animal products or found in relatively high amounts compared to most plant foods. There will be exceptions, such as seaweeds for iodine and so forth, but considering foods that are commonly consumed the animal foods will often have a greater nutrient density than plant foods (nutrient density refers to the amount of nutrients per serving size of foods). Also realize that the foods listed below are the foods that naturally have the nutrient in it. Therefore, foods that have been fortified/enriched with a certain nutrient are not listed.

The details of each nutrient will not be discussed here, but you can assume that each one of them can play an important role in promoting a high level of health. However, the amounts of accessory nutrients (the zoochemcials) that can be ingested from food itself will often not reach the amounts used for assisting in health problems or clinical trials. This does not mean that at these levels cannot help keep a person healthy. Besides containing these items, most animal foods are a very good source of many B-vitamins and high quality proteins. It is important to realize that many whole foods contain numerous substances that are beneficial and it is often misguided to reduce a complex food down to a specific nutrient. It has repeatedly been shown that the many nutrients found in foods work synergistically.(11) Therefore, it is usually best to get all of your nutrients from real, high-quality foods. However, there are situations, like food aversions, health conditions, seasons, athletic goals, and many others, when supplementing your diet with specific nutrients is needed and helpful.

As you can see from the above details, animal based products are a great source of vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and other accessory nutrients that are important for health. The ability to have a nutrient dense diet is not hindered, in fact it is usually improved, when quality animal products are included in the diet. For those following a smart low-carbohydrate diet or for those thinking about it, it should be clear that basing your diet around high-quality animal products is good for your health.

1 – Hasler, C. (2002). Functional foods: benefits, concerns and challenges – A position paper from the American Council on Science and Health. J Nutri; 132: 3772-3781.
2 – Murry M. et al (2005). The encyclopedia of healing foods. Atria Books. New York.
3 – Abrams, H.L. (1980). Vegetarianism: An anthropological/nutritional evaluation. J Appl Nutr; 32(2): 53-86.
4 – Cohen, M. (1989). Health and the rise of civilization. Yale University Press. New Haven, Conn.
5 – Cordain, L. et al (2000). Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets. Am J Clin Nutr; 71: 682-692.
6 – Frassetto, LA. Et al (2009). Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr: 1-9.
7 – Mann, N. (2000). Dietary lean red meat and human evolution. Eur J Nutr; 39: 71-79.
8 – Price, W. (2000). Nutrition and physical degeneration. Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation. La Mesa, CA.
9 – Whitney, EN. & Rolfes, SR. (2002). Understanding Nutrition. Wadsworth. Belmont, CA.
10 – Zeisel, S. et al (2003). Concentrations of choline-containing compounds and betaine in common foods. J Nutr; 133: 1302-1307.
11 – Milner, J.A. (2004). Molecular targets for bioactive food components. J Nutr; 134: 2492S-2498S.

I just want to get "toned"

Posted on September 12th, 2010 by Jeff Thiboutot M.S.

“I want to get toned” is a ubiquitous statement in the personal training and weight loss arena. I don’t know how many times I have had clients say it or the number of times I have seen it written. But what does it really mean? When I ask people what they mean when they say it I get a number of answers. After a brief discussion with them, the general conclusion is they want to lose fat, and look lean and fit. They also stress that they don’t want to get “muscular” or “big and bulky”. They don’t want to look like a bodybuilder, as if it was as easy as lifting weights a few times a week for 30 minutes. There is no problem with wanting to get “toned”. The problem has to do with being clear about what that really means and how you can actually accomplish it.

First, there needs to be a clear definition of what being “toned” is. Although there will be varying views and preferences, I think most people would agree with the following definition of “toned”;

“Having a body fat level that is low enough so that the contours of the muscles have a greater level of visibility resulting in a more fit or athletic look”

So looking “toned” comes down to how much body fat is covering the muscles. Therefore, depending on where people hold their fat stores, some parts of the body will more “toned” than others. Why certain areas will have more or less fat, at a given level of body fat, is largely due to genetics/gender/hormones. For example, it is common to see a guy with “toned” arms but still have a good size belly. In females, it is common to have a more defined upper body, but still have a good amount of extra fat in the lower body. As a side note, when it comes to health, extra fat in the lower body is typically NOT a health risk (Janssen et al). The resulting distribution of fat stores on a particular individual will usually lead to a desired to lose fat in a specific area or areas. In general, men want to lose weight from their midsection and women want to lose weight from their backside and thighs. It is an understandable goal, but can you really “tone” a specific area?

Toning a specific area, which means losing fat in that area, leads to a discussion of “spot reduction”. There is no lack of programs and gadgets, such as The Contour Belt©, 6 Minute Abs©, Brazil Butt Lift©, Hip Hop Abs©, and many others that promise to help you “tone” a certain part of the body. But can these really deliver on their promise? The short answer is NO, but here is why. Spot reduction is based on the idea that if you work the muscles in the area that you want to “tone” (lose fat) the body will specifically breakdown or burn the fat in that area ONLY, or to a much higher degree than working other muscles. Sounds good, but it really does NOT work that way. There is some increase in fat breakdown but it has such a minor affect that it has no real-world benefit (Stallknecht et al). When it comes to those electric “ab belts” there is no evidence that they will help you lose fat in the midsection (Porcari et al; Porcari et al). This is well known physiology and anyone who calls themselves a health and fitness professional should know this. As mentioned before, what dictates what fat will be burned is largely dictated by genetics/gender/hormones. Diet and exercise can have an effect, but not in a spot reduction way. What I mean is that exercise in GENERAL and a low carbohydrate diet can help the body specifically use or burn fat that is in the midsection (visceral fat) (Freedland). Again, to be clear, working a muscle that is next to the area you want to “tone” will NOT have any REAL-WORLD affect on the amount of fat that will be burned in that area, therefore it will NOT reduce the fat in that area any more than exercise that works another area. (Please memorize that last sentence).

Associated with this discussion is the idea that you can build muscle from exercise and that this affect will make you look more “toned”. There is no doubt that increasing the amount of muscle has the potential for improving one’s appearance. However, unless the amount of fat that is covering the muscle is reduced, you will NOT look more “toned”. When it comes to gaining muscle, exercise, particularly weight training, can be a good stimulus for it. However, for those people that are trying to get more “toned” typically they need to lose a good amount of weight, probably 30 pounds or more. This means that the person will have some level of calorie deficit which will hopefully be compensated by an increase in the utilization body fat. But, what often occurs during weight loss is that fat and muscle are broken down, to varying degrees, to make up for the calorie deficit. One benefit of exercising during weight loss, getting “toned”, is that it can help preserve muscle tissue and make the body burn more body fat (Stiegler et al; Volek et al). This affect seems to be enhanced with a low carbohydrate diet. In fact, there is some research that demonstrated the ability of a low carbohydrate diet with resistance training to elicit fat loss and increase lean tissue (Volek). However, this affect will probably not occur in most people and even if it did the amount of lean tissue gained is only a very small fraction of the amount of fat that would be lost. The point here is that you should do some exercise on a regular basis, it has numerous health benefits, and it may help you lose weight, particularly fat. But, when you are trying to lose fat, get “toned”, it is not likely you will increase the amount of muscle you have.

A final aspect about getting “toned” is loose skin. There are no hard numbers on the occurrence, but having loose skin after losing a substantial amount of weight is possible. The likelihood of this occurring is due to genetics, age, how big you were, how long you were big, and how much weight you have lost. If this should happen to you I am afraid to tell you that it is not likely that you will be able to modify this with exercise, diet, or other lifestyle habits. Your best bet to help modify this problem is to gain some muscle. After you have reached your goal weight you should focus on an intense weight training program, along with the proper nutrition plan. However, for most people, particularly older people and women, it is not likely that you will gain a lot of muscle tissue. Therefore, you can help fill-in the loose skin by building muscle, but it is not likely you will be able to have a substantial affect on the looseness.

Here is the take home message, if you want to get “toned”, follow a quality eating plan (read SPEED), and do some weight training for the whole body a few days a week and do some cardio two or three days a week. The most important thing is sticking to it (read SPEED). This is certainly not exciting, and it will likely not turn into a million dollar infomercial, but it may save you some time and money and will actually get you “toned”.

Freedland, E. (2004). Role of critical visceral adipose tissue threshold (CVATT) in metabolic syndrome: implications for controlling dietary carbohydrates: a review. Nutr & Metab; 1(12).
Janssen, I. et al (2004). Waist circumference and not body mass index explains obesity-related health risks. Am J Clin Nutr; 79: 379-384.
Porcari, J. et al (2002). Effects of electrical muscle stimulation on body composition, muscle strength, and physical appearance. J Strength & Conditioning Research; 16(2): 165-172.
Porcari, J. et al (2005). The effects of neuromuscular electrical stimulation training on abdominal strength, endurance, and selected anthropometric measures. J Sports Science & Medicine; 4: 66-75.
Stallknecht, B. et al (2007). Are blood flow and lipolysis in subcutaneous adipose tissue influenced by contractions in adjacent muscles in humans? Am J Physiol Endo Metab; 292: E394-E399.
Stiegler, P. et al (2006). The role of diet and exercise for the maintenance of fat-free mass and resting metabolic rate during weight loss. Sports Med; 36(3): 239-262.
Volek, J. et al (2004). Comparison of energy-restricted very low carbohydrate and low-fat diets on weight loss and body composition in overweight men and women. Nutr & Metab; 1(13).